Sunday, 5 July 2015

Summer mini break in Provence


It was great to escape to the west for a couple of days before the catering onslaught of eight hungry mountain leaders last week!

We were tempted to Chateauvallon near to Toulon to see Alonzo King ballet - Chateauvallon is a small outdoor amphitheatre in a lovely - if difficult to find! - area above Toulon.

Their programme is already available into 2016 - best to book early - OR - if you can't get tickets on line straight away - buy a loyalty card for popular tickets and pay the same price for the card and your discounted tickets - it's great value!!!!

Back to finding the venue - my own fault entirely but I had the location in my head - and was wrong!  It was quite fun - it a bit bizarre - finding ourselves in Toulon housing estates asking where the ballet was!!

Once night falls, you are given the major treat of seeing the lights of Toulon harbour twinkling below you and having a centrally heated seat - afficiandos bring cushions! but I was so captivated I didn't even notice the hardness of the stone!!  The ballet was magic - no suprise there then!!

There wasn't much chance of grabbing anything to eat on the way back to our chambre d'hote - okay it was midnight - but a bite of something would have been very welcome.

There's not a huge amount of accommodation to the North West of Toulon - crossing Toulon was not recommended as a bright option, but we stayed in a small, friendly place in Sollies, not far from Cuers and our culinary adventure at Le Verger des Freres Kouros - where the son of the lovely Christine of the Grand Chalet  completed some of his cheffie training - now wowing them with his pastries in Melbourne!

The early morning swims were much appreciated - thanks Gina and Jacques!!!!

The resto had immediately gained brownie points in their willingness to provide a veggie menu - and is astonishingly good value with a lunchtime menu for €22.  Wines about €30 a bottle.  The outside dining area is very lovely - shame the motorway is just nearby but the racket of the cicadas, and fellow guests yapping, soon covers the traffic noise.

We were well tended by one of the brothers, with more than just a passing resemblance to a certain Rowan Atkinson and a young lad waiter who was a bit bemused by my "er sorry but I don't want ham"!!!!  Mel took the €45 menu which was excellent........very high quality food at a bargain price.

Thanks so much to the guys for posing for this photograph in the kitchen (which is absolutely SPOTLESS!)............for Charles Lemai........




In the evening - we were hardly peckish - but wished to escape the high decibel apero session of our car rally enthusiast fellow guests and fell upon a very good pizza place - the Firenze - where you can choose either small, medium and large size pizzas (read "more than enough", "huge" and "vast" into that) - wood fired oven, long established family business.........nice!!!

The area was recently described as "moche" but the upside of that "moche'ness" is good value accommodation and food, and not an ex-pat in sight - we didn't hear another English voice all weekend.

Useful information

Chateauvallon
Les chambres de Gina
Le verger des Kouros
Firenze - 0494487070 -  45 avenue de la Republique - La Farlede - closed on Wednesdays and Sunday lunchtime

Liz
spacebetween


Thursday, 11 June 2015

Nature AND Art in the Mercantour


A very talented local photographer, Mathieu Vernerey – who has already produced a stunning book called “Les Alpes Océanes” – is creating a summer first, for the pleasure of walkers, by offering an itinerant exhibition of his photographs around four refuges in the Mercantour. 

The exhibition will start on June 13 and continue until September 24 with Mathieu’s lovely shots being visible as follows - 


Refuge - Valmasque : June                                                                               
Refuge - de Nice : July
Refuge - Madone de Fenestre : August
Refuge - la Cougourde : September       

Launch events at 14.00, 14.00, 15.00 and 14.00, respectively, on the first day of opening.

The exhibition is dedicated to Hervé Gourdel – a fellow Mercantour enthusiast who recently lost his life.  

Furthermore entries to a concurrent competition based on Mercantour refuges can also be enjoyed.

Spare a thought for the volunteers who will be transporting the 30 or so images between the refuges!

The refuges are easily accessible in day walks and of course overnight stays can be arranged on the Nice French Alpine Club site,  for the more adventurous.

Alternatively if you are quick, you might be able to stay with local accommodation and holiday provider – spacebetween – who are based in Berthemont les Bains in the Vésubie.

Please support this great effort initiative to enhance your visit to the wonderful Mercantour National Park.

If you require any further information please do not hesitate to contact Liz Lord or Mel Jones of spacebetween – they’ve lived in the area for 12 years so know their onions!




Photo credit  - Mathieu Vernerey - of course!!


Sunday, 3 May 2015

Wolves under fire in the Alpes-Maritimes


The wolf polemic continues here in the Mercantour!!

For sure on the plus side it was great news that our local wolf park has accepted three male wolves to accompany (and procreate with, one hopes) the three young female wolves.   Two of the ladies - pictured above.

The down side - and surprising - given that the winter here has been so mild, is that there have been several wolf attacks in the area, very close to villages, over the past few weeks.

The first was in Venanson where six or so of a friend's young goats had been killed; the second in Roquebilliere where the wolves had the temerity to kill two dozen sheep, in the very close proximity of the house of our local mayor.

The third strike was further south near to Pelasque, topped off with a couple of deer carcasses being found in Saint Martin Vesubie.

This had lead to much uproar from local farmers - who are fortunately (?) re-imbursed for kill losses among their beasts, and the extremists who are now suggesting that wolf cubs should be sought out and killed in their lairs.

Articles below for french readers!!!

Wolf kills 
Wolf killed by hunter

Come to see for yourself - with us spacebetween - open doors now!!!!!

Photo - Alpha wolf park 






Friday, 31 October 2014

Adventures in Sicily

Anti pasti for one in Sicily - only 3 x 2 foot!!  

Thanks to Massimo of ScicliB&B for the use of this photo!!!

Desperately in need of a break at the end of a successful season 2014  (with thanks to all our great guests for their support over the Mercantour walking holiday season) ..........we take ourselves off to Sicily - our loins girded for a long session on Trenitalia - and the romance (?) of a private compartment overnight.........we sleep like dogs on a clattery old train, dubious rolling stock - trying to remember the joys of the process of travelling!

They really do put the train on the ferry on the short trip over the Messina Straits, which is a welcome break from the rattling, and our first "arancino" of the week....and are successfully re-gurgitated into Palermo central where we are spoilt rotten with kindness by Manuela and Manilo at the lovely Via Delle Bicicletta - the bikes make their appearance the following morning, as we stumble out to have a look at the eclectic Palermo old town - having feasted on lovely pastries and coffee.

Rather loathe to take ourselves off to pick up a hire car - as it seemed as if we hadn't really done justice to Palermo, we headed off into the thrash of Italian driving and the Madonie Park and Gangi (where you can pick up a house for a €  if you are quick!)....where the Villa Raino is an oasis of calm (note that the B&B is before Gangi to the west of the town - NOT where Google maps would take you!!!) - while the inviting pool was perhaps a bit chilly looking we have a "bring it on" supper - astringent wine - great to cut through the olive oil - listen to the trill of birds and sleep like logs!!!  Hey logs and dogs.....but sleep - it was good...........and Etna was clearly visible in the morning - as it is - a mighty hulk of nearly 3000m - around the island.  The first snow brought the slopes of the volcano into sharper relief by the end of the week.

Rather like the Mercantour here in France - it seems as if few tourists want to walk in the pretty Madonie hills (we DO need to walk however if we are offered 5K calories of delicious "bounty" a day!) - and the tourist office aghast that we would even contemplate such a mad venture.....

En route to Scicli - we pass by the Villa Romana de Casale which, aside from the shrieking Italian guides with cruise ship clients - was absolutely astonishing and worth the trip to Sicily in itself.

In Scicli, we throw ourselves on the mercy of Nino (Italian but German speaking too!) and his chestnut roasting friends who offer to take us to the Scicli B&B behind a fast moving disabilty scooter! YES!! Fun to be in a studio in the old town where we can eat wonderful tomatoes and plain rice for a couple of nights!!!

Massimo - and he knows who he is - is a cute teddy bear of a host - so keen to get over the splendour of his home town - and perhaps disappointed that we haven't even seen Montalbano on the box. A wealth of splendid churches in the village - a shame that the nearby coastline is a desert of ghastly - but we do manage a nice lunch in Pozzallo.  Ragusa and Modica not visited!

The old town of Syracusa was a treat before we headed off with much anticipation towards Taormina - where perhaps a Saturday evening - not the best time to visit - indeed a beautiful location but much better during the Grand Tour era of the twentieth century - the twenty first has left the town rather  tawdry and expensive.

However we are lucky to be staying outside the town in Lettojanni where we are well tended by Brita at the Casale Praia and, what is more, an amazing meal at the Le Pietre Restaurant in Gallodoro - where we were truly astounded by the 10 (yes 10) plates of anti pasti - having to draw a line at about 70% of the way through the meal - and then a bill of €35 for us both!!!

A drive over the hills on the following day was fun and then a wander around Cefalu provided a diversion (but do look look look at parking restrictions in Sicily's tourist towns as they are hot on parking tickets - we know!).  A shame that the churches are not always open for visitors to appreciate the wealth of history.

After a hassle rich delivery of the hire car and walk back to town, we were delighted to see Manuela and Manilo again and then enjoy a cafe style Indian snack that evening...!!

Bubbling chaos (rather Indian!)  in Palermo on the morning of our departure - but the chance to visit the magnificent cathedral - even if we miss out on the Norman splendour!

Thoughts for the wary!

Read - The Middle Sea - John Julius Norwich - to get in the swing of things
Transport - Fly there!!
Visit - historic sites - first thing in the morning or at lunchtime - check opening times for churches etc
Eat - go steady - there is always more to come
Stay - lots of good value accommodation - check out the location to avoid being in an off season backwater, overlooking a road or train line or half finished buildings
Parking - check out all the restrictions in popular towns
Travel - roads are interesting! - don't plan to thrash through the miles

Enjoy - Sicily has a huge amount to offer!  

SPACEBETWEEN -  we don't offer client trips to Sicily but we have contacts there now if anyone is interested!









Tuesday, 12 August 2014

moving to france

Rustic life in France!!

Don't imagine that you will parachute into France and live happily ever after!!

For sure if you are lucky enough to have a tasty pension you can settle in reasonably well and even more easily if you wish to settle into ex pat ghettos....your choice.....

If you want to work here for yourself and break into "entrepreneurial'ship", do make sure that your heart rules your head when it comes to buying any sort of property here in France, that you have excellent advice and a business plan that you have worked to death - as if you were seeing the ghastly ****s who might wish to terrorise you on Dragons' Den......

Be prepared for several years of worrying about the white envelopes which arrive on your door mat demanding monies about which you have no idea - and the not even veiled threat - that if you don't pay they will add a penalty, and be sure that you can survive without any income at all for at least five years.

Accept that you will be working long hours for a small income, but more than likely in a beautiful if crumbling place with land which is awash with brambles (who who who did invent these things?) and open your mind to the great people who live around you, and then yes, sure, you can dress up your horse and take him to the 40th anniversary party of good friends......

Nothing in life is easy - unless you had the silver spoon treatment or a lot of talent - which we have seen today can have terrible consequences.

Go for it.............

Wanting to get it from the horse's mouth - try accommodation in France or walking holidays in France - spacebetween ......where you can have a great holiday with real people, and eat and drink well.  Vegetarians who despair of eating well in France are very welcome - plus wolves at Alpha on tap!





Christmas snow shoeing in France


Want to get away from the hustle and bustle of commerce overload over the festive season?

It's fun to be with like-minded people on holiday - good walking - good eating - good company - sounds the perfect break.

The obvious snow holiday is of course to slap on the planks or the surf board and zip down hill in your pretty resort.

What your hosts - spacebetween are very pleased to offer are snow holidays, just a stone's throw from the French Riviera, where you can pad around in the wilds on snow shoes, and enjoy both views down to the Med, and up to the massif of the Mercantour.

These holidays start over the Christmas and New Year period and then continue until the end of March.  However with mountains up to over 3000m there is snow (even now as I type) on high level walks until the summer.

Snow shoeing is quite strenuous as an exercise but does not require any great skill - with a bit of "oomph" in your thighs - it takes a tiny amount of time to master your "tennis rackets! - no they are not really like that these days!! - and be proficient. 

What is then a delight is to put your "heels" on to help you up hill, and then "yay" attach the back of your shoes for some downhill "pfloofing" - a spacebetween  trademark word - if not registered!

For the inexperienced, this is running down hill in powder like a maniac and then diving over!

What could be more fun!!!

 Fly to Nice and let spacebetween take the strain!!






snow shoeing holidays in France
snow shoeing holidays over the festive season
Christmas holidays in the snow
New Year in the snow
Vegetarian holidays over Christmas
Vegetarian holidays New Year




Vegetarian holidays in France


Ever been on the prowl for vegetarian food in France in Nice or wherever?

Everyone to a man (or woman) these days does stress just how important food is to the holiday experience.....and quite rightly so......

SO - want to come and have a great hiking holiday in France in an unspoilt national park but just an hour north of Nice?.......already sounding too good to be true...,,,,,

..............AND YES then - what's more - come to France for a walking holiday with spacebetween in the Mercantour and if you stay with your hosts in Berthemont les Bains - you can also have a good say in what you want to eat, and if you are a veggie, gluten free, organic, vegan, allergic to all manner of things - you can be safe and sure that you will have something tasty to eat wtihout endangering your health!!  and there will be no omelettes!!!  If you choose the chambre d'hote option for your holiday you can also be sure that Luc and Christine in the Grand Chalet will look after you extremely well.

It's quite strange that many of the classic food dishes here on the Med either are, or could be, vegetarian with a tiny bit of flare.....thinking socca, salade nicoise, pissaladiere, tarte aux blettes (savoury or sweet), pizza, polenta, courgette fritters, tapenade....never mind the gorgeous selection of fresh vegetables which strain at the edges of local potagers!!

It's often much easier to pop over the border to Liguria, Italy where at least you can be sure of a plate of home made pasta, with, if you are really lucky a good spicy tomato sauce.

Come and stay in the Alpes-Maritimes and play - ask for info from spacebetween for ideas on the coast and in Italy where your hosts have great friends who cook up a storm - such as Marla and Fab at Bella Baita. ....

There's much happening here for the rest of the year - and then there is always the huge filip of the Nice Carnaval and Menton Lemon Festival in February 2015 to get us all going again after the winter.



Photo - thanks to Paramo

vegetarian holidays in France
vegan holidays in France
foodie holidays in France
walking and good food holidays in France